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Italian HH-101 Helicopter Lands In A Field After Hitting Power Lines

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HH-101
The HH-101 in the field with the Italian Air Force personnel at work. (Image credit: RAI)

The HH-101 performed a precautionary landing in a field for further assessments before returning to base.

An Italian Air Force HH-101 Caesar helicopter struck power lines during a night training mission on Jan.10, 2024 near Latina, southeast of Rome. Following the procedures, the crew safely performed a precautionary landing in a nearby field to further assess the situation, while a second helicopter participating in the mission monitored the situation from above.

No injuries to the crew or damages to property were reported, other than the damaged wires which however did not cause power outages to the nearby communities. A maintenance team was sent to check the helicopter before clearing it to return to its base in Grazzanise. Also, as usual, the Italian Air Force activated a team to investigate the causes of the incident to better prevent it from happening again.

File photo of an Italian Air Force HH-101 (Image credit: ItAF)

The HH-101A is destined to CSAR (Combat SAR), Personnel Recovery and Special Operation Support missions, as well as standard Search and Rescue, and night flight training is fundamental to perform safely those mission sets. This kind of incidents is not uncommon, especially at night with reduced visibility, and, because of this, many helicopters, including the HH-101, are equipped with wire cutters.

From the few photos circulating online, the helicopter appears to be intact, although we don’t know exactly the type of impact it had with the power lines nor other details.

Power lines: a significant risk for low level flying aircraft

Although the majority of accidents involving wires occur at or below 50 feet AGL (Above Ground Level), below 500 feet AGL, all kind of wires (power lines, cableways and any other kind of aerial wires) represent a significant hazard for all kinds of aircraft and a matter of concern for both civil and military aviation.

A video of tragic incident that occurred in Chile on Jan. 15, 2024, has gone viral in the last couple of days: the footage shows a Thrush S-2R-T660 Thrush 710P firefighting airplane hitting a utility pole during a low altitude water near the runway of Panguilemo Airport. The aircraft crashed onto a road killing the pilot and injuring several people on the ground.

As explained in an article we published here at The Aviationist in 2019:

Wires are dangerous no matter the experience of the pilots flying in their vicinity. A study into the aerial wire hazards published in 2012 highlighted that the average wire accident pilot had 7,225 hrs total, 5,230 FH on rotorcraft and 1,816 FH on that specific helicopter model.

A number of protection systems have been developed and made available to the helicopters all around the world to mitigate the impact, of wire impact. One system that equips most of modern military helicopters offering a degree of protection to the helicopter in frontal impacts is the WSPS (Wire Strike Protection System), whose typical installation consists of a roofmounted cutter and one or more cutters mounted on the fuselage of the helicopter. A deflector running vertically along the middle of the windshield guides the cables into the cutters.

The Italian Air Force HH.139A helicopter. The upper cable cutter is highlighted. 

A number of protection systems have been developed and made available to the helicopters all around the world to mitigate the impact, of wire impact. One system that equips most of modern military helicopters offering a degree of protection to the helicopter in frontal impacts is the WSPS (Wire Strike Protection System), whose typical installation consists of a roofmounted cutter and one or more cutters mounted on the fuselage of the helicopter. A deflector running vertically along the middle of the windshield guides the cables into the cutters.

Stefano D’Urso is a freelance journalist and contributor to TheAviationist based in Lecce, Italy. A graduate in Industral Engineering he’s also studying to achieve a Master Degree in Aerospace Engineering. Electronic Warfare, Loitering Munitions and OSINT techniques applied to the world of military operations and current conflicts are among his areas of expertise.

David Cenciotti is a journalist based in Rome, Italy. He is the Founder and Editor of “The Aviationist”, one of the world’s most famous and read military aviation blogs. Since 1996, he has written for major worldwide magazines, including Air Forces Monthly, Combat Aircraft, and many others, covering aviation, defense, war, industry, intelligence, crime and cyberwar. He has reported from the U.S., Europe, Australia and Syria, and flown several combat planes with different air forces. He is a former 2nd Lt. of the Italian Air Force, a private pilot and a graduate in Computer Engineering. He has written five books and contributed to many more ones.





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